Cargo cult science is a term coined by physicist Richard Feynman in 1974. It refers to a method of research that mimics the appearance of real science but lacks the rigor and critical thinking necessary to produce meaningful results. The term is inspired by cargo cults, which are religious practices in tribal societies that imitate the actions of technologically advanced cultures in the hopes of obtaining material wealth.
In cargo cult science, researchers often start with a preconceived hypothesis and only seek evidence that confirms it, without making a genuine effort to disprove or challenge their assumptions. This is in contrast to the scientific method, which involves testing hypotheses through rigorous experimentation and actively seeking to disprove them.
Feynman emphasized the importance of scientific integrity and honesty in his speech. He warned against fooling oneself and others, and stressed the need for researchers to question their own theories and results. He also highlighted the importance of transparency and sharing information, so that other scientists can evaluate and replicate experiments.
Examples of cargo cult science include experiments that rely on flawed or incomplete data, or that fail to use proper controls. Feynman also mentioned the problem of researchers selectively publishing only results that support their hypotheses, while ignoring contradictory evidence.
To avoid falling into the trap of cargo cult science, Feynman recommended that scientists maintain a high level of integrity, constantly question their own work, and be open to criticism and feedback from others. By doing so, they can ensure that their research is rigorous, reliable, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge.
In summary, cargo cult science is a form of pseudoscience that mimics the appearance of real scientific research but lacks the necessary rigor and critical thinking. It emphasizes the importance of scientific integrity, honesty, and transparency in order to produce meaningful and reliable results.